Simple Steps on How to Write a Formal Letter

A business letter is an important way to communicate with a businessman or a company. It is important that you don’t write in the same way as you would write to your friends or relatives. A business should always be formal. Writing a business letter is relatively easy as long as you follow the necessary steps in doing it. Some things you will need are envelopes, printer, letterhead and computer or laptop.

1. The first step on how to write a formal letter is typing your letter by making use of the word program in your computer. Formal letters shouldn’t be handwritten.

2. The second step on how to write a formal letter is using a letterhead. However in case you do not have one then just use a clean bond paper or a stationery ( 8 inches by 11 inches). It should also have an envelope. It is not ideal to buy formal cards that already have notes on it.

3. The third step on how to write a formal letter is typing your name, company designation and your address if you don’t have a letterhead. This shall be on the first four lines after the letter’s heading. Then type the current date two lines below your details.

4. The fourth step on how to write a formal letter is maintaining one alignment for your letter. You can have it aligned to the left, justified or aligned on the two sides.

5. The fifth step on how to write a formal letter is skipping two spaces and then typing the complete name of the letter’s recipient. Type the designation of the recipient and the address after that. These details should be aligned on the letter’s margin on the left. Make sure the name of the receiver should have Mr. or Ms. before it.

6. The sixth step is typing the greeting. This should by typed four spaces after the receiver’s address. You should still type the name of the receiver in a formal way, an example is “Dear Mrs. Claiborne:”

7. The next step is typing the body of the letter. You type this two spaces after the greeting. The first thing you should type is an introduction about yourself particularly if you are unknown to the receiver. Then state the main reason for your letter. This can be to make known a complaint, sell a product or requesting for information. The body should be concise. Make it short as much as possible.

8. The eight step is leaving two spaces and writing the conclusion. You can do this by typing “Sincerely” or “Best wishes” then you type a comma after. Then enter four spaces more where you will put your own signature. Skip one space then add your complete name.

How to Write Your Resume Cover Letter

Given the state of today’s economy, many people are looking for work. Other than the regular crowd of job-seekers, the recent graduates, the job-changers, and the youth seeking jobs while they go to school, the job market is being flooded with people who have been laid off.

Companies with positions to fill have many applicants from which to choose. What this means is that your cover letter and resume are very important.

Your cover letter, in particular, is often your first interview with a company, the first chance for a hiring agent to get to know you. A good resume cover letter can help you make a good impression and get an interview. A weak cover letter might cause your resume to be placed in the reject pile.

Many of our clients have asked, “What do I put in my cover letter?” And nearly all of our clients have needed assistance with organizing the content of their letters. Below, we will address both of these issues. If you come seeking our help with your resume and cover letter, great. However, the brief guide below should get you started on writing a successful cover letter.

Cover Letter Content and Organization

Paragraph One: Introduce yourself and state your intentions. This 1 to 2-sentence paragraph tells the reviewer who you are and why you are submitting your cover letter and resume. For companies with multiple job openings, this paragraph also tells the reviewer which pile to put your resume in. Your name is at the bottom of the letter in the signature line, so you don’t need to repeat it here. Instead, describe the type of person you are.

Example: As an experienced sales and marketing professional, I am interested in the position of regional sales manager with the XYZ Company.

Paragraph Two: Summarize your qualifications for the position. Focus on your abilities, not your specific skills. (Abilities are personal characteristics; skills are specific behaviors you can perform. You can learn skills, if needed, but abilities tell what kind of person you are.) The description of your abilities lets the reviewer know if you will be able to learn the skills and how you will perform in a professional environment. However, be careful of using “buzz words” without illustration. You can briefly address your professional history in this paragraph as a way to illustrate your abilities. 3 to 4 sentences should be sufficient.

Example: I am a creative, yet focused, professional with strong managerial skills. My knowledge of system integration, coupled with my leadership abilities, has enabled me to identify and enact efficiencies in even the most complicated organizational environments. For example, in my most recent position, I created new quality control processes and instructed inter-departmental teams on their use. Although I am a “company man,” I am also an individual thinker, seeking new opportunities for the company to reach target markets and surpass financial goals.

Paragraph Three: In this paragraph, you answer this question: “Why are you applying for this position?” In answering this question, you address two issues. First, describe how this position fits your abilities and interests. In a sense, you are saying that this position is appropriate for who you are now. Second, describe how this position will help you advance your career goals. This tells the reviewer that you have a strong interest in the position and will do what you can to succeed and grow. Again, 3 to 4 sentences will be enough.

Example: The leadership and marketing perspective required for a regional sales manager align with my abilities and experiences. I am enthusiastic about expanding my broad knowledge of the market and diverse populations, two aspects of this position I find particularly exciting. Furthermore, this position will assist me to advance into progressively higher responsibilities, and it will provide the satisfaction I earn by succeeding in new and challenging responsibilities.

Paragraph Four: The final paragraph is short, 1 – 2 sentences only. In this paragraph, you bring your resume cover letter to a close by thanking the reviewer and by calling for action. You say “thank you” because that is polite and professional. (After all, the person has read this far and deserves your gratitude.) The action step is essential. Here you answer the question “What’s next?” Will you call the person? Do you want the person to contact you? Do you want to set up an interview? State the action as the final sentence.

Example: Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss how I can support the mission of the XYZ Company.

Other Considerations for Your Resume Cover Letter

Delivery: Paper, e-mail, or fax. Call the personnel agent (or other contact) to ask how to send the resume and cover letter. Although e-mail is very popular, don’t assume-ask. Fax is not recommended unless specifically requested. You cannot control the quality at the other end. Also, if the company wants a paper copy, send it by mail. If you are sending your cover letter by e-mail, send it as an attachment as a PDF file.

Fonts: Times New Roman or other serif font. This looks professional, and it is easier to read than a non-serif font, such as Arial.

Letterhead: Yes. Use a letterhead if you have one. However, don’t use one that is overly stylistic, i.e., too cute.

Layout and format: Use a standard business letter format, complete with date and recipient’s address. Remember to use a colon, not a comma, after the recipient’s name in the greeting. Use 1-inch margins for the letter content.

Recipient: The phrase “To Whom It May Concern” is not appropriate. Send it to a person by name or by position. For example, send it to “Dear Thomas Hardy” or send it to “Dear Sales Division Director.” Using the name is preferred, but the second option is acceptable if you cannot find the person’s name after a serious attempt.

Paper: (This only applies if you send the cover letter and resume by mail.) Use the same type paper for the cover letter and the resume. Choose professional, strong, slightly-off white paper. The paper should be easy to read, so avoid paper with background graphics, watermarks, or obvious design elements. The content, not the paper, will promote your qualifications.

Length: Neither longer nor shorter are preferred. The appropriateness of the content is more important than the length of the letter. With that said, though, 1/2 to 3/4 page should be enough, even if you use a letterhead. If you go over 3/4 page, see what you can cut or condense. Concise writing is persuasive, vigorous writing.

Writing Mechanics: Spelling, punctuation, grammar, and word usage should be perfect. Reviewers will respond positively to well-written content, consciously or unconsciously. On the other hand, errors in writing mechanics create an immediate poor impression of your professionalism.

Assistance: Get it if you need it. Some job seekers need someone to write the letter for them. Others need editing for clarity, organization, and persuasiveness. And some simply need help proofreading to ensure perfect use of mechanics.

Two Last Comments

The advice above is based on our work with successful job-seekers. Many cover letter formats are available, and many people and organizations offer recommendations, so don’t take this advice as the final, definitive word on the subject. This format has worked for our clients. Find what works best for you.

Finally, if you are currently looking for a job, or if you foresee the need in the near future, I wish you well. This is a tough time, but jobs are available. Don’t get discouraged. You can do it. We can help.

Top Five Business Writing Principles

If you ever read To Kill A Mockingbird (or saw the movie for that matter) when you were in school, you may be as shocked as I was to learn that the book is sometimes “deshelved” in school libraries. The reason: some people object to its use of language.

I read about this absurd example of censorship the other day in a national newspaper article. The article describes the trial, which took place in 1960, regarding whether or not Penguin books was guilty of publishing obscenity when they released D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

It’s amazing, isn’t it, that language and the words we use are powerful enough to trigger lawsuits. And today, fifty years after that trial, the controversy over language still flourishes. In fact, according to the newspaper article, last year in the U.S., around 400 books were officially challenged – and the numbers are rising.

What’s even more shocking, some times books aren’t just banned, they’re burned. Among them, is a book by one of our great Canadian authors, Rohinton Mistry. Not only was his book, Such A Long Journey, recently banned by Mumbai University, copies of it were burned on campus! Although the reasons for this extreme reaction are political and complex, objection to the use of profanity was among them.

It may seem difficult to fathom this extreme response to Mistry’s writing, given the amount of profanity that’s visible (and audible!) daily, in our society. But what’s deemed inappropriate or immoral not only changes over time, it also depends on the prevailing social or cultural viewpoint. However, when it comes to business writing it’s a whole lot more straightforward. Of course, the possibility of offending a reader still exists. But if you stick to the following Language Lab business writing blueprint, the chances of banning or burning are slim.

Be Aware: The Language Lab’s Top Five Business Writing Principles:

1. Be aware of your audience. Chances are it’s a client, a potential client or other professionals. Naturally your language should reflect that same professionalism.

2. Be concise. Short sentences and straightforward language will ensure your message is transmitted as clearly and quickly as possible.

3. Be correct. Use correct grammar, spelling and sentence structure that reflect your professionalism and communicate your ideas clearly.

4. Be jargon-free. Using jargon may at best confuse your reader; at worst alienate her or him.

5. Be traditional. When it comes to writing business letters, use correct business letter format. Doing so reflects your professionalism, and the professionalism of your organization.

Meanwhile, I recommend always coming back to the above five Language Lab”be aware” principles in your own business communications. That way you can rest assured you’re unlikely to create a document that anyone will want to ban…let alone burn.